Wednesday, October 31, 2012

"An Immovable Solitude"

Review - "An Immovable Solitude" by S.A. McAuley

Beautifully crafted examination of a relationship

Very Highly Recommended

The ocean, sharks and Kerry. The three things that make life worth living for Eric Hash. He's inherited his uncle's shark-diving and tour company on the coast of South Africa, and life is wonderful. Except for the small little things that come up. Like Kerry's sister and semi-twin Kelle, who can't stand him. And the distance that he's seen in Kerry's eyes the past weeks.

When Kerry takes in a gay throwaway and gives him a job and place to stay, it seems to both solidify their relationship and serve as a lightening rod for whatever it is bothering the man. When, on the very night of Kerry's birthday, when Hash is forced to face some cold hard facts about their relationship and how truly scared Kerry is about being out, all hell breaks loose.

And in the aftermath of the events of that night, Hash finds himself re-evaluating everything he knew-no, thought he knew-about his relationship, his family, his friends and his life.

What happened to force the actions taken that night? Where is Kerry? And will the two men ever find their way back together?

This book, this beautiful hymn to men, shows how we love and fear and learn. Ms. McAuley takes a relationship, shows us how it's built on faulty pilings in the water, and makes us watch it slowly and suddenly collapse like a pier in a tsunami. Then she grabs our hand and shows us how, in the rubble of grief, hurt, anger and heartbreak, two men in love can re-cast the underpinings and build something truly beautiful.

Oh, and it's not just the relationship Hash has with Kerry that undergoes this shock and awe attack, it's every single relationship in his life. He sees, through his pain and growth, how Kelle is not who he thought, and builds a bridge to her. And then Abraham and what he missed seeing with his uncle. Mela, who we see on the fringes and who is more than she appears to be. Even Charlie, and the young man who lit the bonfire of their hurts.

What Ms. McAuley does so well is show us how a man manages to put the pieces of a shattered life back together. And she knows the key isn't to make it better with a kiss. It's hard work. Time. Grieving. Anger. Fear.

But mostly? It's love, and want, and commitment. And she lovingly lets us watch Hash as he hurts and rages and slowly heals.

Amazingly simple, and yet so hard to pull off. Here, it's done in spades.

Beautifully done!


"Oceans Apart"

Review - "Oceans Apart" by Laura Harner

Cool, calm and wow

Very Highly Recommended

***Disclaimer. Laura Harner is my writing partner with our series Altered States. However, I am a reader and reviewer first, and I put aside all my personal feelings and friendships when I review. This is the second in the Separate Ways series, and I recommend you read Continental Divide prior to reading this book. If not, there are potential spoilers for that book below. Now, let's take a look...***

Two years after walking away from Lord Jamie Mainwaring, Colt "Remy" Remington has a whole new life. He returned to Arizona with Miggy, his undercover cop friend who lost himself in drugs. Now, he and Remy own a private security business, are foster parents to Toby, the young man Remy teamed with Jamie to rescue from the underground sex trade. They have a home, a business, and a family.

After reluctantly accepting a job guarding the owner of $15 million in diamonds on a gay barefoot cruise, Remy and Miggy-the very straight Miggy-pose as lovers. And run directly into Jamie and his new partner Ryan, who are also on an undercover assignment.

Add in an uncooperative client, murder, pirates, and the sudden and unexpected attraction between two friends, and Remy and Jamie are forced to confront their new relationships. Will either man admit what he lost, and what he has? Can the four men safeguard the diamonds and solve the case? Or will they become victims on the high seas?

This is the second of four books in the Separate Ways series, and Ms. Harner has taken the two heroes and shown then in a very new, and profound light. In Continental Divide, we are left hanging. Remy walks away from the stunned Jamie, and everything is left up in the air. Jamie is ready for a relationship, and Remy isn't. Miggy is an addict, and Toby is somewhere in limbo.

Now, Remy has built himself a home and an ersatz family without even realizing it. He and Miggy have slowly put themselves together comfortably with Toby as their son, and Remy and Miggy have to deal with the dawning realization that their relationship may be more complex than they first thought.

And Jamie. He has once again partnered himself with his work partner. He's built a comfortable life with Ryan, but finds himself reluctant to fully commit and say those three words every person wants to hear. Ryan is fully aware of it, and his pain is plain. Jamie comes to realize what is in his way and how he's repeating a pattern he started and duplicated with Remy.

This is a very mature, thoughtful work, and I loved how we got to see each of our men, broken and healing, examining themselves. There are no easy answers or fixes, and these guys, unlike so many we see, are willing to do the hard cold examination it takes to truly make changes.

Jamie and Miggy, especially, take very hard looks at themselves, and Ms. Harner gives us glimpses into the men they could and want to be. I already loved Remy, but by the end of this wonderful, literate book, I fell a little more in love with Jamie. And I just can't not want to take Miggy home with me. I am waiting impatiently for book three to see where his story takes him.

This is a solid, well-conceived and beautifully plotted work in what is shaping up to be one of my favorite must-read series.

Great job!


Thursday, October 11, 2012

"Jess's Journey"

"Jess's Journey" by SJD Peterson

Lovely, quiet and romantic

Very Highly Recommended

*This is the fifth in the Whispering Pines Ranch Series. While it is a stand-alone book, it's best to have read the other four so you have a sense of character. If not, read on anyway!*

Once upon a time there was a man named Jess Jenkins. Now Jess, he had a heart and a smile the size of Texas, but not much luck in love. When he tried to give his heart away the first time, he fell in love with his boyhood best friend. That bed was too small, and when his friend didn't return Jess's feelings, Jess got angry and tossed him out of his life.

Then Jess fell in love with Lorcan James. That bed was too big, since he had to share it with not only Lorcan, but Quinn, the man Lorcan really loved. And that lasted for a while, until Jess was in a terrible accident and smashed up his legs. Feeling like less than a man, he chased Lorcan out of that big empty bed, letting him go to the man he loved.

As Jess tried to recover and heal his body and heart, he had two men who looked after him. Collin, the younger brother of his childhood best friend, and Jack, his physical therapist. Both were good men, but would one of them be the man that had the bed that fit just right?

SJD Peterson has finally, finally given me Jess’s tale, and I have to tell you, it was worth the wait. This book is as sweet as Jess’s smile, and as warm and comfortable as your grandmother’s quilt on a cool fall night. While not without some angst, because Jess is a broken man on the mend, this loving, beautiful book wrapped around my heart and snuggled its way home. I was enchanted.

I wasn’t so sure, when I started, where Ms. Peterson was going to go with this. But the crafty woman took me surely along a familiar path, but under her sure hand, it was shiny and new. Jess was being courted and cared for by two worthy men. Collin, a sweetly innocent boy with a heart as big as Jess’s, and Jack, the gruff bear to Collin’s sweet young cub. Either man would have made a good match for the prickly, broken but ultimately honorable and vulnerable Jess.

Now we have two more men I want to see have their own books. Collin, who I’d take home in a minute and never let him go, and Troy, Jack’s counterpart from the hospital.

Oh, and were there any eight more romantic and touching words to build this fairy tale of a book around? “You still love me…You still want me”. Oh, hell yes I do.

Beautiful, masterfully told, and sincere. What more can a guy want?


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

"Stranger in Translation"

"Stranger in Translation" by Charles Raines

Unusual, and bloody brilliant

Very Highly Recommended

In what seemed like a great move at the time, a young linguist agrees to spend six months translating a current bestseller from English to French. What better place than Marseilles, right? Romance, French men and great food and scenery. The young man settles into a perfectly adequate apartment and begins. Then promptly gets stuck.

It seems our unnamed translator hates the book, and feels contempt for the frivolous author. The city's people aggravate him. He's fighting feelings of his ambiguous sexuality, his ennui, and the terrible itchy feeling that something is missing. That his life has no meaning, and this trip is a waste.

He beings hanging out in a local cemetery, on a small bench facing the gravestone of Maurice Mansour. Soon enough, a handsome and mysterious young jogger begins to meet him there, and a slow dance of seduction begins. Along the way, our narrator has a series of encounters with various men, one-offs and meaningless. But always, the jogger nudges and occupies his attention.

Just as our young man begins to feel some hope, something solid, something worthwhile...there's a turn, a secret revealed.

And I can't tell you more without ruining the story and where it goes.

Charles Raines has captured the restless, scratchy, wrong-in-my-skin unrest that men feel as they grapple with what their place in the world will be. Gay, straight, bisexual - it doesn't matter. As Mr. Raines shows in fascinating and intimate detail is that it's the journey, not the destination, that matters. It's the self-definition and discovery that leads to acceptance and calm, not what others perceive you as.

This book is at once in-your-face and quietly fascinating. We see the young man's struggle, his restlessness as he wrestles with his own feelings of superiority and snobbery, which fade into a deeply unsettling, to him, revelation of what his place truly is in the world. And how the challenge of changing not only definition of self, but his worldview, makes him settle into himself.

I really liked that there were no easy solutions for our unnamed narrator. Life is seldom tidy and clean, and the bumpy ride feels...right.

Mr. Raines has a steady, brutally frank voice that I find intriguing and like a LOT. I can't wait to see where he goes next, because this book is brilliant.

Great job.


Monday, October 1, 2012

"Dex in Blue"

"Dex in Blue" by Amy Lane

Insightful, amazing character study

Very Highly Recommended

Just when Dex Williams finally, finally took David Worral by the hand and the heart and they crossed the line from boyhood friends to lovers, something as random as a deer jumping in front of their truck changed David’s future.

Recovering from the wreck and the loss of Dex, David changes his plans and runs to California, becoming Dex, one of the stars of Johnnie’s, a gay-for-pay porn site. Always a follower, David becomes Dex, and takes care of not only the business, but the boys who model for the site.

And one of those boys is Kane. Carlos Ramirez, really, but he’s Kane to everyone now. Forced to move out of his house, he asks Dex for a favor. To move in for a while, so his sister can get on her feet away from her abusive husband and care for her sick baby girl.

What’s a guy to do? Of course Dex lets Kane move in. The guy may be a certifiable, looney-tune, muscle-bound meathead, but he’s a friend, and at heart a sweet guy, Dex figures. But what he doesn’t figure on is that the friends with benefits arrangement could lead to something more. Something he had run from since the real Dex’s death.

Will Kane get past the walls that David built to protect himself when the real Dex died and left him alone? Can he recapture the big-hearted boy he was? Or will he lose everything? How much will he be willing to give up to have everything?

This quietly beautiful character study by Amy Lane takes a simple premise—who is a man, really—and follows it from the point one person’s life takes a sudden left turn and is lost, until he finds his way home. And along the way, I found such scenes of joy and heartache, beauty and ugliness, and pleasure and pain as make up a man’s existence. David’s life changed that one fateful day—moment—and the choices he made and the man he chose to become make for a wholly remarkable tale.

I was truly, deeply and wholeheartedly moved by not only the journey I took with David and Carlos, but by the humbling way Ms. Lane took me there. Her prose was restrained, the descriptions so soul-achingly beautiful I had to go back and re-read them so I could hold them close and savor them, like new/old friends.

David’s grief at Dex’s gravesite.

“He remembered the person who had helped him fly with the wind instead of being beaten down by it, and he cried quietly into his knees, finally knowing how big the sky could be to make a person feel as alone as a heartbeat in space.”

His wonder at how Kane could get to him, and his realization of what it took to deserve a man’s love.

“Maybe before you got someone who would fight to have you, you had to be ready to kill or die for them first.”

And silent epiphanies.

“How many perfect things did God give you in a lifetime?”

This is a different Amy Lane, but yet the same. She’s shown she can move me with devastation, fear, anger, hurt, love, grief. Now she’s shown me, reminded me, there are quiet joys in life again too.

Thank you.